February 19, 2023 – Seventh Sunday Ordinary Time

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As my niece was growing up, it was also the time that we directly and indirectly taught her ways of behaving and of different attitudes, which may be good or bad. Unconsciously, there were many things and ways that we taught to the child that were not really good. For instance, when she would misstep and fall, she would cry because of pain. Our immediate response is to comfort the child and tell her, “hapaka ang salug aron makabalos ka” (hit the floor so that you may have your revenge).Then, this would somehow bring comfort to her as if hitting back would take away the pain.

A situation like this can easily be taken for granted since this looks and sounds normal to us. However, what we are not aware of is that we are actually introducing a very unhealthy attitude to the child. In fact, this kind of situation would only teach children the “culture of revenge” and the “culture of hate.” It is a form of teaching a child not to be comfortable with pain but to take comfort with vengeance. Hence, this is an unconscious way of teaching hatred to a young heart. Yet, is this the attitude and way of life that Jesus is teaching us as his disciples now?

Well, we have heard from the Book of Leviticus what the Lord said to the Israelites, “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart… Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The Lord God commanded this because this is how the Lord shows his heart and compassion to the people despite their unfaithfulness and sins. Moreover, the Psalm today also expressed God’s nature, “The Lord is kind and merciful.”

This nature and attitude of God is the call for all of us Christian believers. Jesus also tells us, “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This perfection, which is much better translated as completeness or wholeness, that Jesus said, is meant to love all, not just loving those who are close to us but also those whom we do not like, those who caused us pain and shame, those who betrayed us and those whom we hate and those who have hatred against us.

Indeed, it is also true that this sounds impossible to do especially if we would follow what Jesus said, “when someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.” This really sounds ridiculous and outrageous not just to us now but also to people who listened to Jesus at that time. We can possibly ask, “How can I love someone who betrayed me? How can I love the person who abused us, physically, materially, emotionally o sexually?

Let us remember that it is certainly true that there may be people who caused pain to us and even unrepairable damage to us, but then, let us also be honest that we too, may have caused pain and damage to others in one way or another, or in many ways which we may not be totally aware of.

So, what is this message of Jesus really all about? Love and peace, not hatred, not vengeance, not violence. This is what Jesus revealed to us. This is the very experience of Jesus with his Father in heaven as well. Indeed, the Lord God is not a violent Father. The Lord God cares for all sinners and righteous alike. And that God’s power rests in unconditional love and not in bringing us to damnation and eternal death because the Lord is slow to anger and does not hate.

From this realization of God’s nature and attitude towards us, we are called to grow and become more like Jesus – in the sense, that we become “a complete person or a whole person” as Psychology says. Being a complete and whole person means a person who is healed through forgiveness, love and peace, who does not nurture grudges and not being controlled by anger or hatred.

Indeed, we are called to get rid of that culture of hate, revenge and violence because healing, reconciliation and peace are not possible when we linger on these attitudes.

This challenges us now that in our relationships, as we may face the possibilities of being hurt, let us also do our best not to keep feeding our hearts with hate and the thirst for revenge and violence. Let us also consciously teach our children of the culture of forgiveness and not the culture of hatred. Kabay pa.

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